Journalist, Cherry Park

Author Bio ▼

Cherry Park is an experienced freelance journalist and reporter who specializes in features, news, and news analysis, in print and online. She has written extensively in the areas of health and safety, fire safety, employment, HR, recruitment, rewards, pay and benefits, market research, environment, and metallurgy, and she also conducts research.
May 21, 2014

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Fighting Fire (Safety Ignorance) With, er, Fire – and Other Bizarre Stories

China fire safety kids

Thank God for that blanket.

A primary school in rural China appears to believe that fire safety is best taught by exposure to fire itself.

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The school, based in Binzhou, Shandong province, had children walking beneath burning ropes, protected only by blankets covering their heads.

Forget the ‘stop, drop, and roll’ fire awareness exercises taught in most schools elsewhere in the world.

In this school pupils face the flames one by one as their blankets blacken and burn, their heads protected from the heat by black helmets.

Dressed in military-style fatigues their safety instructors guide the pupils through as they fight fire ignorance with fire.

Shown in the Daily Mail, the pictures have to be seen to be believed.

Solar-Panel Fires a Unique Challenge to Firefighters

It took 30 firefighters to tackle a house roof fire in Addiscombe, Surrey after 12 solar panels caught alight.

An electrical fault is being investigated as a possible cause of the fire, which affected half of the detached house’s first floor, according to the London Fire Brigade.

In March 2012, in what is thought to be the UK’s first solar-panel fire, the roof of a house in Sittingbourne, Kent was set alight by a fault in a switch linked to the panels.

According to fire crews, solar panel roof fires are difficult to tackle because sunlight stokes the flames.

In the US, Reuters reported that solar panels pose a growing threat to firefighters, who can suffer electric shocks from the panels or connecting wires, even if they are shut off. Forced to adopt different tactics firefighters often take longer to put out solar panel-related fires.

Above and Beyond

Firefighters are asked to do many things beyond extinguishing fires, but delivering babies is not usually one of them.

However, Ross McLaren and Richard Hall from the London Fire Brigade (LFB) had to do just that in the back of a car. A woman in late-stage labour and her husband were on their way to hospital when they got stuck in a traffic jam caused by a nearby restaurant fire attended by the LFB.

The mother, Ewelina Zimnicka, was full of praise for the fire crew and especially McLaren, who obtained his knowledge of midwifery from TV programme One Born Every Minute.

The baby boy was kept warm until the arrival of the London Ambulance Service.

McLaren, a firefighter of 15 years’ standing, said: “It has definitely been one of the highlights of my career and it’s not something I ever expected that I would do in my life.”

Tortoise Rescue

In another demonstration of firefighters’ versatility, a member of the Norfolk Fire Service’s crew freed a tortoise’s leg from cast-iron work at the base of a sundial.

Derek Sim, station manager at Thetford Fire Station, said releasing the 50-year-old tortoise from the cast-iron pattern of the garden ornament using Vaseline rubbed on his foot was one of the most “bizarre” experiences of his 20-year career.

This is not the first time the fire service has come to the aid of hapless tortoises. Last month firefighters in Manchester attended a fire caused by an overheated tortoise tank. The tortoise, which was close to death, was restored to full health after firefighers created an improvised oxygen tent in the back of their fire engine.

The number of animal rescues attended by the LFB has been falling in recent years. In 2012/13 the capital’s fire crews were called out to 282 animal rescues compared to 650 in 2011/12, when firefighters were rescuing an animal every 13 hours. Each rescue cost the Brigade at least £290.

The roll call of animals rescued by London’s firefighters in 2013 include:

  1. A snake on the roof of a mosque
  2. A hamster trapped in a hole
  3. A pigeon trapped in a TV aerial
  4. A dehydrated cat
  5. A baby seagull stuck on scaffolding
  6. A bird stuck in a trampoline
  7. An injured peacock on a roof
  8. A puppy in a precarious position
  9. A dog trapped on a window ledge above a betting shop
  10. A bird of prey stuck on a roof.

The Fire Brigade stresses that calls should be made to the RSPCA in the first instance.

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